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San Francisco’s retail turnover claims another victim: the store that inspired ‘Toy Story’

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San Francisco’s retail evacuation has claimed another iconic business: The toy store that was the inspiration for the Toy Story movies.

Jeffrey’s Toys, which has been family run for 86 years near Union Square, will close for good on Feb. 10, after struggling for years. Ken Sterling, an attorney for the Luhn family, which owns the store, blamed “perils and violence of the downtown environment, inflation, the decrease in consumer spending and the demise of retail across the world” in a statement to the Washington Post.

Matthew Luhn, the current co-owner of the store, worked for Pixar in the mid-1990s as a story artist and writer. And that led to the link with Buzz, Woody and the rest of the Toy Story universe.

“During ‘Toy Story,’ we would have my dad come to give us ideas,” Matthew Luhn told SFGate in Dec. 2023. “And when we did reference for almost all the ‘Toy Story’ films, we always went to Jeffrey’s Toys. My dad just closed up the store and said, ‘Just play, have fun and let me know if you need anything.’”

Jeffrey’s Toys was founded in 1938. At the time, it was a variety shop called Birdie’s, named after founder Birdie Luhn. Following the baby boom that came after World War II, the company began to focus exclusively on toys in 1953 and called itself Birdie’s Toy House. Thirteen years later, the store was renamed Jeffrey’s Toys after Birdie’s grandson.

“We want to thank all of you wonderful people who’ve been a part of Jeffereys [sic] Family. ❤️ It’s been fun,” the store wrote in a Facebook post announcing its going out of business sale.

San Francisco has been in the midst of what some call a “doom spiral,” or what economists call a “doom loop,” with office buildings and businesses still empty in the post-pandemic landscape. Crime is up to levels that some downtown pharmacies are locking up shampoo, toothpaste and other toiletries. And armed robbers have hit a Gucci store in broad daylight. Among the other stores that have pulled up stakes there are Nordstrom (which closed the doors on its five-story, 312,000 square foot store last August) and Whole Foods.

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